your worst extreme summer story and are truck rodeos becoming an endangered species

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I’ve recently heard that Purolator has cancelled the in-house truck rodeo this year and that makes me a little bit sad. Even though Puro never took part in the Ontario or National championships, this was a chance to compare skill levels among drivers and promote a safety-oriented culture among professional drivers. I’m not sure why it was cancelled, as it can’t be that expensive to carry out. It’s a case of setting up a few pylons, and disconnecting a few things under the hood to see if the drivers could find them during the pre-trip. But I’m pretty sure that most drivers weren’t that interested in coming in on their day off and participating. Interest has been lagging in recent years and the company dropped the step van division from the format years ago. Now they’ve dropped the competition entirely.
That said, the Ontario championships are still going strong, although they’ve dropped the small truck division too. But last year’s provincial championships at the Mohawk raceway saw about 85 participants–all winners and runners up from regional competitions. This was down from about 100 entries the previous year but is still a healthy group. And some companies get behind this big time, i.e. Tim Horton’s, Fed Ex, etc. This year’s championships are set to go at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, and my only regret is that I won’t be able to go head to head against some FedEx tractor driver for all the glory. With more than 30 years driving semis I must be pretty good, but don’t have any way to measure it. Are Truck Rodeos a good idea? How can we make them relevant to today’s commercial drivers?
On another note, I’m compiling a feature on summer driving conditions and stresses and how to best deal with them. I’d like to have input from drivers across the spectrum, not just dry van haulers. I’m also looking for gravel haulers, tanker pilots, deck drivers and bulk haulers, heavy duty tow truck drivers, car and speciality haulers, those delivering chemicals, shunters, and anyone else in the industry. Stresses include extreme heat, summer storms, holiday drivers, etc. What’s your worst summer trucking experience and how did you deal with it? What are your strategies to deal with summer conditions? What works and what doesn’t? When the going gets tough, the tough get going. I’m reminded of the commercial where this fellow hauling beer has to stop making out with his girlfriend because the trailer’s getting too hot. Let me know your thoughts, Harry

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Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio.

With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude.

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  • Hi Harry, I don’t have a particular worst summer driving story, but summer holiday traffic is always stressful…a family who doesn’t drive anywhere other than their own local area all year, then cram the whole family in a motorhome or other vehicle or combination of vehicles and head out to who knows where or why and the driver is overwhelmed by the extra passengers, the extra belongings jammed in the cab and the different size of vehicle they are driving. Add in the chatter and other noise from the kids’ electronic gizmos and the fact that these people are probably unfamiliar with the roads where they are going, so they have the destination programmed into a GPS which they keep staring at instead of watching the road and paying attention to what is happening around them! I have learned to spot these type of drivers and give them a very wide berth!

  • Well if you think of the highway as a community, truckers are its full time members because they’re out there all the time and they need the roads to make a living. Recreational drivers are fair weather drivers at best, although they may log a lot of miles during holidays. And commuters are only part timers, as well, using the big road to get to work and then maybe go shopping to a mall. I used to get frustrated at getting cut off, having someone pass me and then slow down, that kind of thing. But a friend told me a long time ago that it’s no use getting bothered in a motor vehicle, since all you’re doing to get somewhere is moving your hands and feet a few inches to propel yourself to another place. The problem is most four wheelers don’t understand how a truck works, why they slow down going up a grade and why they like to take a run at the next hill, and think you are tailgating. But the same is true regarding cyclists. I drive 18 wheels at work and two wheels when I get home, and four wheelers can’t figure out cyclists either. My latest pet peeve is the extra wide trailers that some four wheelers are pulling these days. They’re fully 102 inches wide and some of these jokers don’t even have mirrors that are wide enough to see alongside the trailer. They also don’t realize that the trailer is wider than their pickup truck. A friend of mine on a bike was hit by the wheel well of one of these wide body trailers and the driver drove off, probably not even realizing he’d almost crippled a cyclist. I wish the cops would get these things off the road when they notice their mirrors aren’t wide enough for the trailer

  • Harry.
    As a former employee, it is sad to hear that Purolator has cancelled their employee truck rodeo, what a great tradition, and to hear it has come to pass is very unfortunate for the employees and there families.
    The rodeo was not only about who was finishing first or second it was about employee appreciation and it gave the local management team a chance to see the employee doing their day to day jobs. Harry, it gave the employee a chance to grin a little larger and have a swagger in their step when they were successful at the local and the glorious opportunity to compete in the big day at head office in front of all the best of the best from all over Canada and not mention the upper brass. It was an awesome feeling on that day. I take those wonderful memories with me to this day knowing that awesome feeling that you are one of the best of the best in you class.
    I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to compete in the local and national employee rodeo. It was a great day for every employee of the company and their families who came out to support the family member who was competing. It was not only a rodeo, it was the opportunity meets old friends and meet new ones or an old manager who you had not seen in a while.
    I am truly very sorry for all the employees across Canada who will not be able to have that opportunity.
    Jim Downie.

  • Harry
    Just thought I would comment on the hotter wather coming and to maybe take some concerns away from puplic about the movement of livestock in hot weather so that people have a better understanding . The drivers hauling livestock are drivers that take a lot of care about how they drive as when you have animals that move around you don`t want to slam brakes on or take off too fast or go around a curve to quick or you could be on there side .
    Most drivers moving livestock of any kind will have a very good understanding about what there hauling .
    Drivers hauling pigs on a hot day know that it is important to keep the pig cool and so when your loading or unloading try to do that in am early morning or later evening and will try and avoid cetain times of day because of traffic.
    Pigs also like if the shavings are wetted down with water as that helps them keep cool as a pig is like a dog he sweats or cools through his mouth .
    One company had a truck break down last summer with load of pigs on and tempeture was about 27 degrees celius and the driver called the local fire department to come and wet down the shavings to keep them cool and never lost a pig on the load .
    I know people go up the road annd think the poor animals but them animals are well taken care of on there trip .
    I will give an example of quite a 30 years ago a driver working for Walden Transport had load of lambs on and there was one small lamb that was not near as big and so he had a box with some straw in bottom sitting in the cab of truck with him all the way to green pasture in Ontario.
    Most of the drivers that are moving livestock have alot of experience and there is very few young drivers looking to haul livestock but they soon learn that they might get dirty and or get kicked or run over with animal and they also have to considor the weather hot or cold and the biggest thing they have to understand is the quality of life of the animal while it is in there care .
    The drivers and companies moving livestock of any kind it is the animal welfare there looking out for and that be the animals first trip or there last trip it is about the humane care of the animals .
    I hope this gives a little better understanding of movement of livestock and the drivers are trying to do while moving the animals so when tempature rises and someone slams brakes on remember the animals all move to the front of trailer when you stop quick in front of a livestock truck .
    Thanks and happy driving .